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Mayor Adams Suggests ‘Outside Agitators’ Created Tent Conspiracy to Ruin NYC

This goes all the way to the Big Top, and more news for your Wednesday morning.

Tents at NYU's pro-Gaza encampment.

(Hell Gate)

Last Wednesday, Columbia University and Barnard College students took over a lawn on Columbia's Morningside campus with a Gaza Solidarity encampment that's been going strong since then, despite Columbia President Minouche Shafik personally calling in the NYPD to bust up the demonstration and charge participating students with trespassing. (Protesters agreed to downsize the encampment on Wednesday morning after talks with the university.) Downtown, pro-Palestine protesters set up a similar encampment in front of New York University's Stern School of Business on Monday morning, and the NYPD cracked down on that demonstration with even more gusto and made more arrests after NYU's administrators requested that the NYPD clear out the protest. In total, 120 people were arrested in connection to NYU's pro-Palestine encampment this week, and 113 were arrested at Columbia last week, according to the NYPD, with most arrestees charged with trespassing. 

So, what have the brightest minds in New York City law enforcement noticed about these ongoing protests? What insights have they chosen to share with a public eager for an explanation as to why, say, a professor and New York Times columnist's planned classroom John Cage listening session was so rudely interrupted? It all, apparently, comes back to the tents—and the ever-popular protest boogeyman, the "outside agitator."

On Tuesday, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry told Fox 5 NY that in his "personal opinion," someone is funding the protests on New York City's college campuses, and their choice of outdoor shelter is his smoking gun. "If you look at the tents, where did they all get them from? The same place, the same person? Somebody is behind this, and we're gonna find out who it is," he said. 

Mayor Eric Adams echoed Daughtry's theory later on Tuesday, during his weekly off topic press conference. "I think Commissioner Daughtry made a good point—why is everybody's tent the same?" the mayor said to a room full of reporters. "Was there a fire sale on those tents? There's some organizing going on, there's a well-concerted organizing effort, and what's the goal of that organizing? That's what we need to be asking ourselves." Then, to crystallize his theory, he added: "We can't have outside agitators come in and be destructive to our city. Someone wanted something to happen at that protest at NYU." 

Here are the tents in question:

For the record, a quick Google search collapses the biggest tentpole (sorry) that the mayor and Daughtry's outside agitator theory rests on. Where did students and faculty members get all these tents that look the same? At the store, duh.

Those green and blue tents being thrown away by NYPD officers on NYU's campus, for example, are sold for $15 at the retailer Five Below, and the green and gray Camel Crown tents that can be seen in videos of the encampment on Columbia's campus are available online from Walmart and Amazon for around $28 to $35. My God…looks like what we've got on our hands is a classic case of college students buying something cheap and disposable. 

But more importantly, the mayor and an NYPD official have chosen a well-worn law enforcement play (with a decidedly racist history) by invoking the specter of the outside agitator, that shadowy and villainous figure who hops in their car or books a bus ticket and heads to a new zip code at the first sign of unrest and turns peaceful and sidewalk-minding demonstrations into orgies of anti-cop violence and destruction. (Not that, again, any assault charges have been filed in connection to either pro-Palestine encampment as of this writing, though the NYPD did claim that bottles and chairs were thrown at them during their raid of the NYU encampment.)

The outside agitator provides a neat explanation for when protests escalate beyond chanting and marching. It can't possibly be true that people in New York City are genuinely growing angrier and angrier as they watch the death toll in Gaza climb with U.S. government support and backing; some external person must be swooping in and paying college students and their professors to get arrested and pepper-sprayed to… I don't know, make Mayor Adams look bad? Rile people up for fun? 

Anything to distract from the real issue.

Some links that are definitely not a distraction: 

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